Vinny's Top Ten of 2008

This is one of the first years that I felt completely overwhelmed in terms of finding time to play the games I wanted. It might be due to the fact that I still had leftovers from 2007 or maybe was just that there were so many excellent, long games out this year. While I tried to get to the credits on everything, I still have a stack of 2008's finest that I need to complete. It's a pretty safe bet that every game on this list is something I could not put down until I had finished it. It's true that I believe even bad games have moments of brilliance and should not be totally dismissed, but that doesn't mean all games are equal. The items that made my list this year each did an amazing job keeping me entertained until the end.

10. Condemned 2: Bloodshot
I'm not really into ridiculously violent games and I don't enjoy being gross for the sake of being gross. That said, I become totally immersed in the gritty, jagged world of Condemned 2: Bloodshot. I think the most fun aspect was that the main character, Ethan Thomas, had become such an integrated part of this dark and terrible place. Playing through as somebody so filled with rage in a world that was all about rage felt right. I got the sense that in order to survive this place I had to play by its rules, and that meant Ethan wasn't about to sit and talk things out. The physical combat was about as visceral and painful-looking as I would care to see, but it also made every encounter that much more memorable.

9. Fable II
I really liked the original Fable, but there were very particular things that I thought could have been handled better. Luckily for me, Lionhead addressed almost every issue I had with the original in its sequel, Fable 2. The combat, choices, and story progression were all refined to give players the most enjoyment out of the rich world of Albion. I found the dark humor to be one of the most captivating things about the game, and was always amused by the small twists and tweaks that gave the storybook setting some real bite.

8. Bionic Commando Rearmed
This was probably my most anticipated game of the year and it absolutely delivered. Everything about the remake was so perfect that it seemed to please all of us Bionic Commando fans, and that is no small feat. The great remixed music, the visuals and the small but thoughtful additions all contribute to making this the new high-water mark for a classic revival.

7. Street Fighter II Turbo  HD Remix
The online competition in Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix had my blood pumping harder than any other game this year. It's been a long time since I found myself swearing at other players, with the headset muted of course, over matches that were just too close to call. I'm definitely not the greatest Street Fighter player out there, but getting back into HD Remix not only reminded me why I spent so many hours playing SFII, but also made we want to do it all over again. Now that's crazy.

6. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
The thing I liked most about Nuts & Bolts was the ability to create vehicles that had to perform a very particular task. Many games allow you to create content, but not all of them give you such a creative and satisfying payoff for your troubles. The unlockable upgrades and ability to view the insane creations of other users kept me chasing Jiggies for more hours than I care to admit.

5. Braid
Braid was one of the most memorable game experiences for me in 2008. The game was set up in a way that really kept you using your brain, while actually giving you some fun gameplay. The unfolding narrative had you continuously trying to guess how things were fitting together in the story while also trying to wrap your head around devilish puzzles. Braid is one of those games that everybody should at least try, as there's really nothing else like it.

4. Gears of War 2
If you were to ask me what I wanted from a new Gears of War game it would simply be more Gears of War. Gears of War 2 took everything I liked about the original and added an actual, cohesive narrative to the experience. The story fleshes out the fiction in a way that makes me interested in how this whole conflict is going to resolve. The storytelling is also done in a way that wraps around the gameplay so that you're constantly completing small objectives that continue to move the story along. Gears 2 is a great example of a game that I could not put down until I had finished it...twice.

3. Metal Gear Solid 4
In terms of presentation, this game has to take the cake. The visuals are some of the best out there and the creative use of the camera makes for some of the most striking scenes to date. It's hard not to think back on the greatest gaming moments of 2008 without MGS4 coming up multiple times. While the standard gameplay has been tweaked enough to make it satisfying and enjoyable, the real fun is going through the more scripted and creative scenarios that are peppered throughout the lengthy title.

2. Grand Theft Auto IV
Life isn't always fair and sometimes we are forced into situations where there is no clear, right answer. Grand Theft Auto IV embraces this and makes for some of the most compelling narrative in any game out there. The world is alive, chaotic and is not going to cut you a break just because you're the main character. While you're playing as Niko you constantly feel like you're trying to move him from a bad situation to a slightly less bad one. The characters you meet along the way are all flawed in their own way, and present plenty of interesting and diverse interactions, that can be both entertaining and moving. The gameplay is the best in the Grand Theft Auto series and the environments have never seemed more alive. I found GTA IV to be one of those games that had so many excellent moments in it that I spent almost as much time talking about it as playing it.

1. Dead Space
I didn't know too much about Dead Space before I actually sat down and played it. Needless to say, I became instantly absorbed, mostly because the entire experience is so damn tight. There's nothing I would change about the game and it's a product that I would have been proud to work on. The satisfying combat, detailed atmosphere and the way the game never took you out of the action all contributed to this one being at the top of my list for 2008. In my humble opinion, this is as close to playing that "perfect" game in 2008 as I was going to come.

Oh, and Burst Limit. THHHHHHHHHTTTTTPPPHTT! Happy New Year!

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